Tips on surviving festival and conference season

SXSW crowd

Photo by flickr user Kris Krug

With South By Southwest starting in just a few weeks, we think it’s time to offer our seasoned wisdom on surviving another year of blockbuster events. Whether you’re a big-time music fan attending your first festival, or a schedule nut looking to maximize your conference agenda, we’ve got the tips to get you through it.

Dress for the weather
Yes, you might have planned on wearing your favorite ironic T-shirt or those new strappy sandals, but neither will do you any good if the forecast calls for atypical festival weather. Keep an eye on that hourly forecast, and plan accordingly. An extra layer will be a lifesaver should the skies turn gray, and it’s helpful indoors too—conference halls and screening rooms are notoriously chilly, no matter what’s going on outside.

Free water

Photo by flickr user CarlosPacheco

Plan to hydrate
Whether brought on by heat or a rigorous all-day schedule, dehydration can put a damper on your fun. Set yourself up so that you don’t have to think about having a steady supply of water. Bring your own bottle to fill up at water fountains (some festivals even have “hydration stations”). For events with more restricted entry, make the effort to find out ahead of time what the policy is for bringing in your own bottle (or more likely, one sealed water bottle), so that you’re not stuck buying the infamous $4 water once you’re past the gates.

Bring a portable phone charger
If you think your upcoming event is going to be totally uh-MAZ-ing, you’re right! And you’re going to want to share every moment with your friends and rub their faces in your fun! All of those pictures and social posts put an extra strain on your phone battery, and you don’t want to find yourself at 5% just when the big act goes on or you’ve finally met your best Twitter pal in person. Bring a portable charger, which you can power up ahead of time and carry with you to give your phone the extra boost it needs to last well into the night.

Bring snacks
Festival planners do a great job of packing the schedule with outstanding events, but that often means you need to skip a meal in order to see that keynote or screening that everyone’s been talking about. Stuff your pockets with your favorite portable snacks like protein bars, and you’ll be glad to have them when you suddenly feel famished and there’s not a snack stand in sight. As with bringing water, check the outside food policy before you go.

SXSW swag

Photo by flickr user jefferylcohen

Be choosy when it comes to swag
We all love free stuff, but we don’t love having to carry it around all day. There are treasures to be found at all big events, but think before you stuff it into your bag. Paper items can be the worst offenders; sure, it’s just a magazine or poster, but pick up 10 of those, and you’ll just be throwing them away later. However, if we’re talking edible freebies, or something useful like a water bottle (see above re: hydration and snacks), then snatch those things up! Keep an eye out for small items like pins and stickers, too. They don’t take up much room and make great souvenirs.

Pack some first aid
Whether you’re walking, standing, or dancing, you’re going to be doing a lot of it, and your days are going to be long. Unexpected bumps and bruises—not to mention blisters—are part of the experience. Don’t let minor boo-boos slow you down. Just toss a few bandages in your pocket or purse. They don’t take up much room, and you’ll be so happy you have them. Remember that most events have a first aid station in case that you need more, or if you have a more serious injury.

Muddy feet

Photo by flickr user mrmanc

Wear good shoes
You can go a long way toward preventing blisters by choosing the right shoes. Don’t mess around in this area, especially if you know you’re going to be walking a lot from venue to venue, or doing a lot of standing. Many conferences even have sub-cultures of footwear fans, so wear your favorite everyday shoes with pride. If you’re going to be outdoors, remember: where there’s grass, there’s mud, and where there’s mud, there’s tears, unless you leave the skinny heels and flip flops at home. Wear shoes that you’re confident will still be on your feet by the end of the day.

Take in some local flavor
Sure, you’re all about your main event, but try to remember to take a breather and get away from the scheduled activities if you can. Chances are, you’re visiting a pretty cool place, and there are probably some good restaurants and museums to check out. See what you can learn by asking the people who are working at your event. You might find a hidden gem that will make your festival experience uniquely special.

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